There’s no doubt that Cape Breton Island has turned out many very talented musicians. Most tend to favour Celtic music, with the fiddle being the instrument of choice. So, it’s no surprise that Ashley MacIsaac, who grew up in a musical family, took to the instrument at an early age. It has had a major impact on his life over the years.
MacIssac’s career began in the early 90s with the release of his first album, Close to the Floor, in 1992. With the release of his third album, How Are You Today? in ’95, he garnered more popularity, especially with his hit “Sleepy Maggie” that featured the Scottish Gaelic vocals of Mary Jane Lamond. The album would go on to achieve double platinum sales and helped MacIsaac win the 1996 JUNO award for Best Roots and Traditional Album. He went on to record 11 more albums.
No one can argue that he has brought something different to the sound of traditional Celtic music and introduced the genre to a whole new generation. He has an edge to his sound that he attributes to the unorthodox way he plays the fiddle — with the strings upside down. This is because he is a left-handed musician playing a right-handed instrument. It’s how he was taught, and during an interview years ago he suggested it helped him to play the low notes on the lower side and then go up on the high ones creating a unique sound that some would classify as Celtic fusion. He blends this with a little folk and rock.
MacIsaac has continued to tour over the years and has made numerous appearances at major functions including the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and as co-host of the East Coast Music Awards with Heather Rankin in 2016. He’s also appeared on the Conan O’Brian Show and the Today show and has been a spotlight at international festivals, theatres and halls all over the world.
The deCoste will welcome MacIsaac on stage once again, following his guest appearance last fall with Jimmy Rankin. The performance will be on Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35, $32 for members and can be purchased by contacting the box office. This show will also have limited Arts Are for Everyone passes available at each of the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Libraries for anyone with a library card. They will be available two weeks prior to the show.